FROM DHARAVI TO DHARAVI BHET: Climate Change by Fr. Allwyn D’Silva

he session was attended by students and teachers from St.Xavier's College, NGOs : Abhishekh Bharadwaj from Alternatives Surabi Sinha from Vikas Adhyayan Kendra, Ruchi Jain from Climate Change and professionals: Ajay nayak Architect, Inir Pineiro, social entreprenuer,  Rajni Bakshi, writer journalist, The session was co-hosted by the Xavier Institute for Social Research and in fact was held there.

Walter started the session with Fr. Allwyn's introduction. Fr. Allwyn has been working both as a priest and a social activist in Dharavi for 21 years. He is now working in Bhayandar, where the current agitation against the dumping ground has become important. These experiences intersect with major trends of sprucing up Dharavi on the one hand, and the conversion of 36 villages in Vasai-Virar into a corporation.Walter  said that the mainstream media and science is very narrow minded and does not link up with lot of knowledge that is built up over the centuries in India and elsewhere in the world as well. The idea of having these kind of sharing sessions is to share some kind of alternative knowledge that is developed in this experience

He also said that the way the city is being planned now it looks as if they don't want to acknowledge the existence of slums or its contribution towards the development of city.

Fr. Allwyn has been working in the slum areas for a long time. He shared his experience with rest of us. Earlier he worked at slums Jeri Meri and Sakinaka. They started Jagruti Kendra there. They initiated mass organizations i.e. if you have problems, you come together and try to solve it .It was a mass action not led by particular leader at a particular political party.

In 2000 he started working at Dharavi. Dharavi was a self-sufficient place. Lots of small-scale industries are there e.g. leather, plastic, pickle etc. If these slums have to be rehabilitated then the main problem is where to make new buildings for these lakhs of people. Another problem is many people in Dharavi are earning their income by making things like pots, pickles. If they are living on 6th floor where is the place where they can make their posts to sell?

Constructions of the buildings is very poor. Facilities are minimum

Afterwards he showed the slide show of the infamous Dharavi redevelopment Plan by Mukesh Mehta and discussed how the local people were being shortchanged, and the valuable property being cornered by the builders for hugh private gain.


Interview by John D'Souza with Fr Allwyn on His work on Climate Change.

Fr. Allwyn, a priest and a social activist is working in Dharavi for the last 21 years. He is currently involved in the agitation against the dumping ground at Bhayandar.

Fr. Allwyn has been working both as a priest and a social activist in Dharavi for 21 years. He is now working in Bhayandar, where the current agitation against the dumping ground has become important. These experiences intersect with major trends of sprucing up Dharavi on the one hand, and the conversion of 36 villages in Vasai-Virar into a corporation.

As one of the founders of INECC (Indian Network on Ethics & Climate Change), he has been instrumental in taking the issue to the peri-urban belt, Dharavi Bhet (gorai-vasai). Allwyn also holds important positions in the church system, as head of the Justice and Peace Cell, ICOR(Institute for Community Organisation and Research) and professor at St Pius X College, as well as member on several human rights councils.

text of SETDEV interview with Fr. Allwyn  –ICOR, DRTC, JPC -- 1/2/2010

Allwyn’s involvement with INECC started when Nafiza approached  him while preparing for the WCC meeting on Climate Change, in order to get acquainted with the documents and positions of the church on Climate Change in particular, and Environmental and Social issues in general.

At that time, around 1992 we did not know much about the Science of Global Warming, Green House Effect. The first workshop was to familiarise ourselves with the issue. These were provided by Delhi groups, Ravi Sharma of CSE and Thomas Mathew of WWF. Dr Abraham linked the ecological Crisis with role of the Church.
The general impression was that CSE was doing a fair job on the scientific aspects, and they were more equipped to handle this.. INECC has very few science oriented person.  The amin person was Shreedhar who would provide the science aspects.  So INECC concentrated on the ethical aspects.  So we began by looking at how different faith understand it. Since Indian people are religious minded, it was felt that this would be a good route to get the issue to the people.

It was when the COP 8 was held in New Delhi, that advocacy in the forms of statements and publicising them became an integral part of INECC.

Later it was felt that INECC should move from the talking about the issue to doing something about it. This was particularly so as the constituents of INECC were working with various communities in different development programmes.  Thus this carve out its role.. namely going to the Common people, the grassroots .( Thus this was the first aspect of democratisation  of the Climate Change Debate – that is the political involvement of the people in the issue,  (ed) Shreedar was working in the mountaineous regions and Laya in Rural Areas among tribal forest communities, William Stanley in Rural, Tribal, Forests.  Other regions were the City and Coastal regions to be taken up by ICOR.

Each group was to develop action response based on their local bio-region. First they organised different workshops were held in different bio-regions. (Thus each region developed its own specific understanding. Here it became apparent , that problems and approaches in different bio-regions was different, diverse. Thus a plural response was apparent –Ed)

At this bio-regional  level, the need for knowledge and science of local and region specific impacts of climate change was felt. However very little information was available with the scientists at the state level institutions. (Walter ) Thus the regional workshops drew on the experience of the local people, their observations, of changes and related it to the larger issues.  ( this was the second aspect of the democratisation of the debate as the science itself, drew on the experience of the people, and their observations of the phenomenon, and various ways in which they could adapt to the changing climate. (ed)

ICOR were not able to do much in the city as the issues seemed complex. Of course they did studies relating to Transport etc.. Working in the city and slum on climate change has been difficult, as the livelihood of people is more linked to the formal sector, or non-fromal but fiercely explotative industrial sectors.  The issues were more related to habitat, like vulnerable shanties along the coast, and rivers/drains. ICOR thus felt that they should concentrate of education and invovlement of the Youth.  They also worked with communities in the peri-urban areas, in developing “sustainbale communities” concept through programmes like recyling household and other waste into fertilisers and promoting urban organic agriculture. In the Gorai ares we held long discussion with the local people, and brought out the connections between CC and what is happening at the ground level.. that is to make the link between their daily lives and Climate Change. IN Uttan we could relate elements like depletion of fish with possible experience of sea level rise and other changes that has been brought about by the sea.

We cannot say that 100% that climate change was directly responsible for the effects like fish catch, or helath, but it seems to be pointed in that direction.  So while we do not have a final answer, the people felt that they could act on that assumption, and take up actions to mitigate CC and take some leasures for adaptation.  The reason , besides the most plausible explanation is that other more proximate causes like sea pollution, chemical pollution, are linked to the same cause – a model of development and growth which increases chemicalisation and pollution, waste generation, and depletes the traditional livelihoods of large sections of people, and displaces them from the habitat – in such violent ways.

The rural programmes could easily relate projects to climate change, and develop the consiousness of the local people around these themes. Laya took up work on solar laterns. Laya also took up study of sustainable Vishakapatnam,